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A Collaborative Vision for Serving Adult Learners

| May 24, 2013 | 4 Comments
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Photo by Tom Jung, San Mateo Adult School

Round table discussion report from CATESOL Northern Regional Conference.

The 2013 Northern Regional CATESOL Conference on Saturday May 4th gave us a wonderful opportunity to bring together a panel of ESL educators from community colleges and adult schools to talk about A Collaborative Vision for Serving Adult Learners. It was a chance to share ways of thinking about the two systems, how they differ, what they share and how they both strive to serve adult learners through the different historic filters that have shaped them.

The session was moderated by KQED Education and the panel brought considerable experience and expertise from both sectors to the table. Dr Bob Harper, Director of Campbell Adult School and Kristen Pursley, Lead Teacher from West Contra Costa Adult Education, presented their vision for adult education and Greg Keech, elected Chair of ESL at CCSF and Sonja Franeta, former Chair of ESL at Laney College, spoke to issues confronting noncredit ESL provision in community colleges. Both sectors addressed ways to work together towards a fair and equitable system that meets the needs of non native speakers in Northern Californian communities.

Greg Keech laid out the context for this discussion in his post on KQED ESL Insights blog – What is Noncredit? “What is known as “adult education” in the K-12 system is generally known as noncredit in Community Colleges. In the ESL realm, there have been two separate entities delivering instruction: some districts have adult ESL classes under their local K-12 district, while credit instruction is provided by the community college; in other areas, the community college district provides both credit and noncredit ESL, though not always under the same roof.” Our panelists offered examples of the differing systems – City College of San Francisco provides both credit and noncredit ESL classes, whereas Laney College offers only credit ESL courses.

The discussion was further set against the backdrop of Governor Brown’s recent proposal to move adult education into the community college sphere, which was unanimously rejected on March 19th by the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance. However the subcommittee voted to approve it “without prejudice,” which means they did not disagree with the principle. As such the idea is likely to come back in the May budget revise.

To summarize the points discussed:

  • Both systems are based on principles of social justice.
  • The community college system is more driven by standards and outcomes that frame their work.
  • Colleges privilege credit courses in terms of funding, with more funding allocated to courses where students matriculate. Many ESL students do not seek to go to college but look for other outcomes that may be vocational. Their right to language provision should be protected, as should the rights of seniors to attend lifelong learning classes, and classes for adults with disabilities. CCSF also offers non-credit Parent Education classes – all of this provision could be under threat if the Governor’s plan goes though.
  • Both sectors stressed the importance of open access, fluidity in terms of access and achievement, with clearly delineated pathways for students to navigate systems whether in terms of progression or reentry.
  • Participants in the session talked about the importance of solidarity between sectors in terms of defending provision. Adult schools are clearly in a more vulnerable position and face considerable uncertainties in terms of jobs and program survival if they are absorbed into the community college system.

To understand the impact on adult education under K-12 in California, please visit http://a4cas.blogspot.com/2013/03/weekly-update-33113.html.

It was agreed that setting up a working group between adult education and noncredit ESL sectors would be a positive way forward to collaborate on issues discussed. Participants from the group signed up to stay involved.

Resources

For KQED ESL Educator resources, visit www.kqed.org/esl

Edsource 5/14/2013 – Governor tries to fix adult ed plan, but controversy remains

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Category: ESL Insights, Post-Secondary ESL

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About the Author ()

Maxine Einhorn is from London and has lived in the Bay Area for 12 years. She has worked in adult education in London,UK, for over twenty years as a tenured instructor and department manager. She has an MA in Film and TV from University of London and has taught, moderated and appraised academic work in film studies and media literacy at undergraduate and college level. She runs the ESL/ Post Secondary project at KQED which offers media-rich resources for and created by ESL educators.
  • http://adulteducationmatters.blogspot.com Cynthia Eagleton

    Thanks so much for this post the ones that led up to them, as well as for pulling together the panel discussion at CATESOL. Much needed! All of us in Adult Education are in common purpose: Serving the people of California, be they young adults, older adults or in between. That is one bit I wanted to add: You mentioned that CCSF also provides non-credit Parent Ed. So do all Adult Education providers – in both K12 Adult Schools and CC non-credit programs. At least, they used to. In the chaos of the last five years, post “flexibility,” many Adult Schools had to cut or eliminate their Parent Ed programs. Same with Older Adults. What’s more: Gov. Brown is proposing to specifically NOT fund Parent Ed and Older Adults with the new funding he detailed in his May Revise. What does that mean for California, with a large and growing senior population? And stressed parents who may not be adequately supporting their children in life or school? Good question. Especially when he did not propose how to meet those needs, if no longer through Adult Education programs. For the moment, these programs continue in some places. And of course, there are plenty of both parents and seniors in ESL classes. I sometimes think it would be interesting to do a study on seniors in ESL classes. Language learning is fantastic brain stimulation. Do these seniors have better brain function as a result? Less dementia? Higher social function? That’s a study waiting to happen! In the meantime, thank you again for giving all of us in Adult Education a means to share from our experience and connect in our values and concerns.

  • http://adulteducationmatters.blogspot.com Cynthia Eagleton

    Thanks so much for this post the ones that led up to them, as well as for pulling together the panel discussion at CATESOL. Much needed! All of us in Adult Education are in common purpose: Serving the people of California, be they young adults, older adults or in between. That is one bit I wanted to add: You mentioned that CCSF also provides non-credit Parent Ed. So do all Adult Education providers – in both K12 Adult Schools and CC non-credit programs. At least, they used to. In the chaos of the last five years, post “flexibility,” many Adult Schools had to cut or eliminate their Parent Ed programs. Same with Older Adults. What’s more: Gov. Brown is proposing to specifically NOT fund Parent Ed and Older Adults with the new funding he detailed in his May Revise. What does that mean for California, with a large and growing senior population? And stressed parents who may not be adequately supporting their children in life or school? Good question. Especially when he did not propose how to meet those needs, if no longer through Adult Education programs. For the moment, these programs continue in some places. And of course, there are plenty of both parents and seniors in ESL classes. I sometimes think it would be interesting to do a study on seniors in ESL classes. Language learning is fantastic brain stimulation. Do these seniors have better brain function as a result? Less dementia? Higher social function? That’s a study waiting to happen! In the meantime, thank you again for giving all of us in Adult Education a means to share from our experience and connect in our values and concerns.

  • http://lightheartedlearning.com/ Jayme Adelson-Goldstein

    Thank you so much for posting this summary of the Northern Regional CATESOL adult education panel. It must have been a great session and I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to attend. This summary brings up key issues for the field to consider, first and foremost the need for a collaborative approach in determining how to best meet the needs of our adult English language learners.

    Now, it may be that I read the post through my K-12-based-adult lens, but the bullets seemed to highlight the non-credit community college programs. In order for us to best serve our adult learners, in ESOL and other subject areas, it’s important to shine a light on what each type of agency (K-12-based adult and CC non credit) does best. For example, the Family Literacy programs run by K-12 based adult programs have a potent effect on learning gains for adults and children. In that same vein, I wasn’t comfortable with this statement in the post: The community college system is more driven by standards and outcomes that frame their work. Adult programs engage in pre- and post-CASAS testing; adhere to the California Model Standards (put into place in 1992); make use of core curriculum and texts correlated to the model standards and CASAS competencies; not to mention their need to adhere to WASC accreditation standards. (And word on the street is that we will soon be looking at correlating to Common Core Standards as well.)

    Something else that K-12-based adult ESOL programs bring to the table is the infrastructure to handle the numbers of adult English language learners that will need instruction once immigration reform is in place. The cyclical history of Adult Ed programs includes having to do more with less (where we are now), but there is also a long history of jumping in to effectively meet the needs of the State’s adult learners at the drop of a hat (or a bill).

    I believe strongly that we need collaboration in order to provide our immigrant adult English language learners with the best options available; but an important first step is to accurately inventory what California’s K-12 based adult programs and non-credit community college programs can do (see the LAO reports) and identify the resources these agencies can use to serve this population.

  • http://lightheartedlearning.com/ Jayme Adelson-Goldstein

    Thank you so much for posting this summary of the Northern Regional CATESOL adult education panel. It must have been a great session and I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to attend. This summary brings up key issues for the field to consider, first and foremost the need for a collaborative approach in determining how to best meet the needs of our adult English language learners.

    Now, it may be that I read the post through my K-12-based-adult lens, but the bullets seemed to highlight the non-credit community college programs. In order for us to best serve our adult learners, in ESOL and other subject areas, it’s important to shine a light on what each type of agency (K-12-based adult and CC non credit) does best. For example, the Family Literacy programs run by K-12 based adult programs have a potent effect on learning gains for adults and children. In that same vein, I wasn’t comfortable with this statement in the post: The community college system is more driven by standards and outcomes that frame their work. Adult programs engage in pre- and post-CASAS testing; adhere to the California Model Standards (put into place in 1992); make use of core curriculum and texts correlated to the model standards and CASAS competencies; not to mention their need to adhere to WASC accreditation standards. (And word on the street is that we will soon be looking at correlating to Common Core Standards as well.)

    Something else that K-12-based adult ESOL programs bring to the table is the infrastructure to handle the numbers of adult English language learners that will need instruction once immigration reform is in place. The cyclical history of Adult Ed programs includes having to do more with less (where we are now), but there is also a long history of jumping in to effectively meet the needs of the State’s adult learners at the drop of a hat (or a bill).

    I believe strongly that we need collaboration in order to provide our immigrant adult English language learners with the best options available; but an important first step is to accurately inventory what California’s K-12 based adult programs and non-credit community college programs can do (see the LAO reports) and identify the resources these agencies can use to serve this population.